Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
Woody Allen has cast Jason Biggs in the neurotic-in-love role he used to write for himself in this tepid comedy. Biggs is Jerry, a Manhattan joke writer trapped in toxic relationships with abrasive manager Harvey (Danny DeVito) and bratty, sex-withholding girlfriend Amanda (Christina Ricci). Further complicating his life is new pal Dobel (Allen), who advises Jerry to dump the both of them. The story is more tedious than amusing, even though Allen’s script is peppered with one-liners. The movie ought to be funny, but that’s only the case when Allen is on-screen – his co-stars lack the timing to put the jokes across. Biggs is badly miscast and Ricci’s self-absorbed, child-woman act is getting awfully tired.
Grade: C- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Ricci’s resume is rife with queer-themed projects, including “The Opposite of Sex.” She and co-star Stockard Channing both appeared in “The Laramie Project.”)
The Fighting Temptations
A soundtrack in search of a movie, the sinfully unfunny “Fighting Temptations” will try the soul of anyone wanting more than a collection of rousing gospel numbers. Darrin Hill (Cuba Gooding Jr.) goes home to Georgia to collect an inheritance and discovers there’s a catch: to cash in, he has to direct the local church choir. He recruits a motley crew of singers, from chain-gang inmates to single mom Lilly (Beyonce Knowles), and off they go to win the gospel choir competition. Sadly, the weak romance and prodigal-son redemption plotlines go nowhere slowly, and a cast of incredibly talented singers see their skimpy acting talents aggravated by an inept script and TV-movie-level direction. When there’s music happening it’s heavenly, but when the singing stops, the audience is dragged down to comedy purgatory.
Grade: C- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Cuba Gooding Jr. played gay in “As Good As It Gets” and pretended to be gay in the worthless “Boat Trip.” There’s nothing gay-oriented in this movie, though – unless you count the sky-high R&B/gospel diva quotient created by the presence of Beyonce, Melba Moore, Ann Nesby, Faith Evans, Angie Stone, Shirley Caesar, Yolanda Adams, and the group Mary Mary.)
When slatternly single mom Mae (Kyra Sedgwick) drops off her 14-year-old son, Walter (Haley Joel Osment), at his great-uncles’ Texas farm to spend the summer, the irascible geezers initially intimidate the boy. But Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth (Michael Caine) have big hearts under their gruff exteriors, and they are soon entertaining the boy with tales of their French Foreign Legion days and providing him stability he’s never known before. While this family comedy-drama is unabashedly hokey, shamelessly jerking tears from Walter’s vulnerability, it also provokes lots of laughter with its homespun humor and abundant fantasy sequences. The real reason to see the film, though, is for the gleefully hammy performances of Duvall and Caine, two old pros who appear to be having the time of their lives.
Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 1 (Caine played gay in “Miss Congeniality.” Sedgwick, along with co-stars Nicky Katt and Josh Lucas, have all appeared in queer-themed films.)
Lost in Translation
While in Tokyo to film a commercial, middle-aged Hollywood star Bob Harris (Bill Murray) strikes up the acquaintance of 20-something fellow American Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson). Though separated by age and social status, the pair bond over the loneliness and alienation they feel as they navigate a culture neither understands. What begins as a temporary relationship to while away the time soon builds into something deeper. Sofia Coppola’s romantic comedy-drama is enchanting when it focuses on the growing intimacy between Bob and Charlotte. In his portrayal of midlife angst, Murray gives one of his finest performances, and his scenes with Johansson are genuinely touching. Unfortunately, Coppola frames her story with a lame satire of the Japanese that is cliched and sometimes racist.
Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Murray played queer in “Ed Wood” and co-starred in the steamy bisexual thriller “Wild Things.”)
Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star
Dickie Roberts (David Spade) was a child star who grew up and lost his job, then his money and fame. Parking cars for a living and playing poker with the likes of Corey Feldman and Danny Bonaduce, Dickie longs for a comeback. To get one, however, he knows he has to relive childhood and learn the lessons Hollywood denied him. He pays a family to adopt him for a month, then moves in and wreaks havoc. Unfortunately, there’s not enough mayhem, and the movie gives Dickie too many lame, heartwarming moments in which to bond with the audience. And this is David Spade, not Lassie – he’s funny throughout, but his persona as a glib, sarcastic jerk is too tough for the movie to penetrate, leaving every unfocused and forced tender moment feeling like a “bad touch.”
Grade: C- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Strangely enough, Spade has never officially played gay; but Dickie makes a throwaway reference to having tried sex with men once to ward off a relentless gay fan/stalker, portrayed by Ian Gomez – who played gay on “Felicity.” Queer fans will love the hordes of grown-up, real-life former child stars who make cameos over the credits.)
At the Coleman residence, the generation gap is in full swing. Psychologist mom Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis) just doesn’t get her 15-year-old daughter Annabell’s (Lindsay Lohan) punk-rock tastes, while Annabell deeply resents her mother’s upcoming remarriage. During a bitter quarrel, they ingest enchanted fortune cookies and awaken the next morning to discover they’ve switched bodies, leading to possibly life-altering complications as they try to get through the day without anyone discovering their secret. In spite of its 21st-century trappings, this remake of the 1976 Disney family comedy (which starred the young Jodie Foster) retains an old-fashioned air, with cornball humor and some implausible generational misunderstandings. But the broad jokes lead to laughs more often than not, and the movie charms, thanks to the affectionate chemistry between Curtis and Lohan.
Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 1 (Curtis previously starred in “The Heidi Chronicles,” while co-star Willie Garson appeared in the queer romance “Luster” and plays Carrie’s gay friend Stanford on “Sex and the City.”)
Jeepers Creepers 2
This schlocky horror sequel marks the return of The Creeper (Jonathan Breck), a winged monster who appears every 23 years to feast on humankind for 23 days. On the final day of his latest feeding frenzy, the creature disables a bus full of high school students, with the intent of turning the kids into an all-you-can-eat buffet. Suspense never builds and there are few actual chills in this remarkably bland thriller that is undone by lackadaisical pacing, lame special effects, a mute and colorless monster, and a gaggle of petulant, unsympathetic teen victims. Only a gleefully over-the-top Ray Wise – as a maniacal farmer bent on killing the beast – succeeds in injecting life into this woeful drama.
Grade: C- Kinsey Report: 1 (One of the teens, Izzy, is nicknamed “Is-he-or-isn’t-he?” by classmates who question his sexuality. Co-star Diane Delano played the dyke gym teacher on “The Ellen Show,” and openly gay director Victor Salva previously made the queer-themed drama “Rites of Passage.”)
Obsessive-compulsive con man Roy (Nicolas Cage) and his partner, Frank (Sam Rockwell), scam retirees out of their money with bogus water-filtration systems and the promise of prizes that never get delivered. Meanwhile, Roy gets a delivery of his own in the form of a 14-year-old daughter named Angela (Alison Lohman) he never knew he had. In no time at all he’s teaching her the ways of the grift and she’s teaching him to become a better man. But that’s all the plot you get here – to give away the details would be the real crime, as this cleverly scripted movie provides plenty of surprises, cool performances, and more Nic Cage facial tics than you’ll be able to count, all along the way to its twisty ending. See it before someone spoils it for you.
Grade: A- Kinsey Scale: 1 (There’s some light, homoerotic teasing of Roy by Frank. Cage is the only actor in the cast to have played gay, in the little-seen indie “Sonny,” in which he was a gay pimp. Some of director Ridley Scott’s earlier movies, like “Thelma and Louise” and “Alien,” are queer cult films.)
Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Wandering guitar-man/vigilante El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) is recruited by CIA Agent Sands (Johnny Depp) to kill a drug lord (Willem Dafoe) who is in turn attempting to overthrow the president of Mexico. Of course, that’s just what you think is going to happen, until all the deceptions and double crosses kick in. Schlocky, sloppy, and silly, the movie gets bogged down more than once along its epic-western-wannabe way. But none of that matters when Depp brightens up the screen with his trademark weirdness or when bad guys are being hurled through the air in a hail of stylized gunfire and exploding sets. As a piece of junk entertainment, it delivers enough laughs and action to satisfy all but the most demanding moviegoers – in other words, it’s bad filmmaking you can feel good about.
Grade: C+ Kinsey Scale: 1 (Several cast members have played queer before in other films: Banderas in “Philadelphia” and a few times for Pedro Almodovar; Depp in “Before Night Falls”; and co-stars Salma Hayek in “Frida” and “Time Code” and Mickey Rourke in the indie prison drama “Animal Factory.”)
Kevin Costner directs and stars in this Western that is epic in length, if not in scope. Charley Waite (Costner), a former gunfighter, and his partner, Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall), are itinerant cattlemen, moving their herd across the open prairie. When cattle baron Baxter (Michael Gambon) sends henchmen to murder the pair’s hired hands and steal their stock, Waite and Spearman take up arms as they vow to avenge their fallen comrades. Costner and Duvall are superb as devoted friends squarely facing their destiny, and James Muro’s cinematography of the gorgeous Alberta wilderness is spectacular. Unfortunately, those strengths do little to compensate for the drama’s weaknesses – ponderous pacing, laughable dialogue, and a mix-and-match plot that is burdened by the hoariest of Western cliches.
Grade: C Kinsey Scale: 1 (No queer content here, but Spearman seemingly acknowledges the homoeroticism implicit in such close male relationships when he jokingly refers to himself and Charley as “an old married couple.” Co-stars Gambon, Annette Bening, Diego Luna, and James Russo have all appeared in gay-themed films. The recently deceased out actor Michael Jeter appears in a small role.)
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and blacksmith son-of-a-pirate Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) are out to stop a ghost ship led by evil Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), whose crew of skeletal scallywags wants to break a curse by using the blood of kidnapped damsel Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). Sparrow recruits his own pirate gang to fight them, and Elizabeth herself is no shrinking violet, versed in pirate lore and ready to get her hands dirty in battle. The movie is confusing at times, with all the double-crossing going on, and it’s overly long at 130 minutes. But the swashbuckling and yo-ho-ho-ing never let up; visual gags from Disneyland’s ride pop up here and there; the digitally animated skeleton crew is suitably scary; and Depp’s performance in this entertaining summer treat is hilariously, drunkenly weird.
Grade: B+ Kinsey Scale: 1 (There’s precious little rum, sodomy, or lashing going on here, but Bloom and Knightley are both beautiful creatures to watch. Eye-shadowed Depp played a drag queen in “Before Night Falls” and also cross-dressed in “Ed Wood”; his loopy Jack Sparrow pays homage to Marlon Brando’s own swishy performance in “Mutiny on the Bounty.”)
Millionaire Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges) assuages his grief over his son’s death by going into horse racing, acquiring undersized equine Seabiscuit and hiring taciturn trainer Tom Smith (Chris Cooper) and too-tall jockey Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire). When the horse embarks on an unlikely winning streak, he becomes a Depression-era hero. The racing sequences of this film are tense and exciting, and the three leads are sensational playing wounded men seeking redemption. But the fact-based drama suffers from an overstuffed back story, bombastic direction by Gary Ross, and a syrupy score by Randy Newman. There is a great movie here struggling to break free, but it never quite makes it out of the starting gate.
Grade: B- Kinsey Report: 1 (Maguire, Cooper, and co-star William H. Macy have all played gay characters. Bridges cut a comely figure when he donned drag in one of his earliest movies, 1974’s “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.”)
Lieutenant Dan “Hondo” Harrelson (Samuel Jackson) trains a new, young S.W.A.T. team (Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, LL Cool J, Josh Charles, Brian Van Holt) for the LAPD. Their training gets put to the test pretty quickly when a rich international terrorist (Olivier Martinez) in police custody offers $100,000,000 to anyone who can spring him from jail. Suddenly, thugs come out of the woodwork, blowing things up and making life hell for the rookie crime-fighters. The movie suffers from corny dialogue and a by-the-numbers approach to action filmmaking. Add to that so much intense violence that it strains the PG-13 rating. But if you don’t find it a strain watching hot young actors brave a hailstorm of bullets and bombs, this one’s for you.
Grade: C+ Kinsey Scale: 1 (There are a few gay-baiting moments in the movie, when the macho S.W.A.T. men taunt each other with fifth-grade barbs like “Is he your girlfriend?” It’s more juvenile than offensive, and considering all the swoon-worthy male flesh on display here – both Farrell and LL do a lot of shirtless torso modeling – it’s easily overlooked.)
Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) is a good girl with a close relationship to her recovering alcoholic mom, Melanie (Holly Hunter). But Tracy’s not popular. That’s where Evie (Nikki Reed, who also co-wrote the screenplay when she was, yes, 13) comes in. Evie is a wild thing who makes quick work of transforming Tracy into the kind of out-of-control monster who curses at Maury Povich on daytime TV. Melanie is helpless to stop her child from going down the wrong path, and the pain Hunter communicates as she tries to save her daughter is wrenching to watch. In the gut-punching tradition of “Kids” and “Over the Edge,” “Thirteen” is a tough road to travel – with no easy answers and no pretensions to speaking for all seventh-grade girls – but it’s a mother-and-child journey worth making.
Grade: A- Kinsey Scale: 2 (Evie teaches Tracy how to kiss and more. There’s a lot of sexual tension going on between the girls, and also between Evie and Melanie, as the kid emotionally seduces her. Hunter played lesbian tennis star Billie Jean King in the TV movie “When Billie Beat Bobby,” as well as a bisexual character in “Crash.” Among the supporting cast members, Deborah Kara Unger also played bi in “Crash,” while Jeremy Sisto is a regular on “Six Feet Under.”)
Madcap heiress Molly Gunn’s (Brittany Murphy) life is all about nightclubbing and pursuing a relationship with Neal (Jesse Spencer), an up-and-coming rock star. After her accountant absconds with her inheritance, the ditzy woman-child is forced to start growing up, taking a job as a nanny to precocious, neglected 8-year-old Ray (Dakota Fanning). This uneven dramedy tries to juggle elements of romance, screwball humor, and pathos, but the love story is spoiled by Murphy and Spencer’s lack of chemistry; and the comedy, relying almost solely on clumsy Molly’s pratfalls, quickly grows thin. Far more successful is the poignant bond between Molly and Ray, who both experience loneliness and grief at the loss of their beloved fathers.
Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 0 (Co-star Austin Pendleton has written gay-themed plays and had a recurring role on “Oz.”)